Longtime Alabama leaders Thomas E. Corts, Emory O. Cunningham and Eugene B. Sledge will be inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at a luncheon at The Club in Birmingham.
Founded by the Alabama legislature in 1987, the Hall of Fame recognizes men "whose lives have impacted the state, the nation and the world." Honorees must have been deceased for at least two years. Plaques recognizing all honorees are housed in Samford University's Harwell G. Davis Library.
The 2013 honorees devoted decades to the state in ways both similar and diverse.
Corts, who died in 2009 at age 67, was a higher education leader who also invested himself personally and professionally in public policy reform efforts. He was president of Samford University from 1983 to 2006.
Cunningham, a publisher, civic leader and philanthropist who died in 2000 at age 78, was president and chief executive officer of Progressive Farmer Corporation and founder of Southern Living magazine.
Sledge, an educator, biologist and author from Mobile, taught biology for decades at the University of Montevallo. Also known for his compelling books on World War II, he died in 2001 at age 77.
An Indiana native who grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, Corts quickly invested himself in Alabama. During his Samford tenure, he co-founded Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, and was an early supporter of Leadership Birmingham and the Alabama Poverty Project. At Samford, he led the school to become one of the region's top universities with a rapid growth in enrollment and endowment. After retirement, Corts was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to serve as coordinator of basic education for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Corts held a bachelor's degree from Georgetown College in Kentucky and master's and Ph.D. Degrees from Indiana University.
Cunningham, a native of Kansas, Ala., and World War II veteran, began his career selling advertising for Progressive Farmer magazine, but quickly rose through the ranks. Hoping to rehabilitate the reputation of his home state and region, he debuted Southern Living magazine in 1966. The success of the popular magazine, which celebrated the best of the region's food, family and natural beauty, brought him honors including 1976 Magazine Publisher of the Year award and induction into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame and Alabama Academy of Honor. Deeply committed to philanthropy, service and education, he served in advisory roles with many civic and cultural associations, and was a trustee of his alma mater, Auburn University.
Sledge returned from service as a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman in World War II to earn bachelor's and master's degrees at Auburn University and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He taught for 28 years, from 1962 to 1990, at the University of Montevallo, where several generations of biology students knew him as a dedicated scholar and teacher. He was also known for giving voice to the formative experience of his generation. His published memoirs of war include With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (1981) and China Marine: An infantryman's Life After World War II. The former, a candid account of Sledge's experience in the Pacific, stands as a great achievement of war literature and is required reading for Marine officer candidates.
The 11:30 a.m. induction ceremony luncheon is open to the public, but reservations are required by September 16. Tickets are $30 each. For information, call Gayle Byrne at (205) 871-9805 or Annette Green at (205) 879-3935. More details may be found at www.samford.edu/groups/amhf.